Born in a barn in 1909, Leo Fender seems an unlikely father of rock ’n’ roll. But as the man whose company perfected the solid-body electric guitar, his contribution to contemporary music cannot be overstated. Just take a look at the albums whose musicians thought enough of their Fender guitar to put it on the cover: Eric Clapton’s "Layla," Bruce Springsteen’s "Born To Run," Jeff Beck’s "Wired," The Pretenders’s (Chrissie Hynde) "Get Close," Bonnie Raitt’s "Nick of Time." The list of influential artists who play a Fender is just about endless.
Fender’s first solid-body electric guitar was introduced in 1950. It debuted as the one-pickup Esquire before the name of the two-pickup model was changed to Broadcaster. But Gretsch was already using the name Broadkaster on some of its instruments, so the name was changed again.
Between names, the company made the most of its remaining Fender Broadcaster decals by cutting off the word Broadcaster so that only the Fender brand made it onto the guitar’s headstock. Today, collectors call these guitars Nocasters. Only about 60 Nocasters were made, which makes them extremely collectible, but by April of 1951 the guitar would finally get a name that would stick, the Telecaster.
The Stratocaster came next in 1954. Unlike the Telecaster, whose ash body was outlined with rib-digging 45-degree edges, the Strat had a sculpted body that fit players like a glove. Three pickups gave the instrument unprecedented tonal range, as did a vibrato bar that would bend the guitar’s strings when pressed. And instead of the Telecaster’s blond, natural-wood finish, the Strat was offered in a number of colors, including the iconic sunburst (golden-yellow in the middle fading to black on the outside).
Solid-body electric bass guitars were also a Fender innovation. The Precision bass was introduced in 1951. It had a headstock that was virtually identical to that of the Telecaster and a body that turned out to be a preview of the 1954 Strat. By 1957, the Precision’s headstock had been redesigned to mirror the Stratocaster’s, and that version of the bass remains largely unchanged today. The Jazz Bass was added to the low-octave lineup in 1960, and a six-string bass was offered in 1961.
Fender launched two other major guitar lines in the 1950s. The first of these was a pair of low-cost models, the Duo-Sonic and the Musicmaster, both of which were introduced in 1956. These guitars were for kids who wanted to learn how to play without having to shell out the big bucks for a Stratocaster ($274.50 for a Strat versus $119.50 for a Musicmaster). The other initiative was a high-end guitar called the Jazzmaster, which retailed at the time for $329.50. It had a rosewood fingerboard on the standard maple neck, and switches that let the guitarist bounce between rhythm and lead sounds.
In 1962, Fender introduced the Jaguar, which combined a Jazzmaster body with a Stratocaster head. The Mustang, an update of the Duo-Sonic, was added in 1964. Years later, Nirvana...
But the 1960s are best known as the decade when Jimi Hendrix did things to his Stratocaster that nobody had thought possible, from setting it on fire to playing wailing, psychedelic versions of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Alas for Fender, it was also the decade that the company was sold to CBS—for Fender purists, the years 1965 to 1985 are like a 20-year musical drought.
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NAMM showcases innovation, artistry in world's biggest music trade showThe Pasadena Star-News, January 25th
“This is a vintage synthesizer that hasn't been around in a while.” Dodds, who works in post-production in the film and TV industry, said he enjoys coming to the NAMM show every year. “I just like to check things out and see what's new,” he said. The...Read more
Fender unveils Faberge-style Pine Cone Stratocaster at 2015 NAMM ShowLos Angeles Times, January 24th
Making such one-of-a-kind guitars is beyond the dreams Shishkov had as a young man living near Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union, before he emigrated to the U.S. In America, Sishkov found work building guitars first at Washburn, before joining...Read more
NAMM 2015: Limited Edition FendersSonic State, January 23rd
Some of the world's most prized vintage guitars are made from a West African hardwood called korina. We've chosen this premium wood to fashion the Limited Edition American Vintage '52 Telecaster Korina as an elegantly crafted take on a timeless Fender ...Read more
Fender Unveils Geddy Lee and Steve Harris Signature BassesPremier Guitar, January 22nd
Scottsdale, AZ (January 22, 2015) -- Fender is proud to announce the release of several new artist signature bass guitars at the 2015 NAMM Show. Steve Harris's galloping fleet-fingered basslines have turbocharged U.K. metal titans Iron Maiden for...Read more
Fender Introduces the Bassman 500, Rumble 210 Cabinet, and Rumble 115 ...Premier Guitar, January 22nd
The Bassman 500 combines Fender's world-standard Blackface tube preamp with a lightweight 500 watt Class D power amp. It uses modern technology to maximize vintage vibe, with Fender '60s Blackface styling and a wealth of innovative features on the ...Read more
Fender Custom Shop Announces 2015 LineupPremier Guitar, January 22nd
Other premium features include a quartersawn maple neck with highly worn Heavy Relic treatment on the back, 9.5”-radius maple fingerboard with 21 narrow jumbo frets, rock-solid American Vintage synchronized tremolo bridge, American Vintage tuning...Read more
Blotter: Fender bass guitars stolen in Arlington HeightsChicago Tribune, January 20th
Two Fender bass guitars were taken from a guitar store at 2375 S. Arlington Heights Road between Dec. 19 and Jan. 15. A vintage Fender American in blue is valued at $2,199 and a Fender American deluxe in sunburst color is valued at $1,750. A decorative ...Read more
NAMM 2015: Fender's Dee Dee Ramone Precision Bass reaches storesMusicRadar.com, January 19th
of punk bassists to come. The Dee Dee Ramone Precision Bass guitar honors him with reverence and authenticity, just like any bassist since who's ever planted his feet in a wide stance, slung a P Bass below the beltline and yelled a manic "1-2-3-4...Read more